Cervical cancer is a prevalent health concern affecting women worldwide, with approximately 570,000 new cases reported annually. Emerging as a major public health problem, this malignancy originates primarily in the uterus, in the lower part of the uterus.
As the global medical community steps up efforts to combat this preventable disease, the ongoing discourse surrounding cervical cancer highlights the need for accessible healthcare, comprehensive awareness campaigns, and equitable distribution of resources to ensure effective prevention and treatment strategies.
But what is cervical cancer? What are its primary signs, causes, symptoms? Dr. Roli Banthia, Consultant-Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Yathharth Hospital, Noida Extension explains how cervical cancer occurs and preventive measures to take.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. The primary cause of cervical cancer is persistent infection with high-risk types of human papillomavirus (HPV). Over time, this infection can lead to the development of abnormal cells that can turn into cancer.
Early symptoms of cervical cancer:
Early symptoms of cervical cancer may not be obvious, so regular screening is very important. However, possible early symptoms include abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as between periods, after intercourse, or after menopause. Additionally, increased vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, or pain during intercourse may indicate early stages of cervical cancer.
Causes of Cervical Cancer:
The primary cause of cervical cancer is infection with certain types of HPV. Other risk factors include smoking, a weakened immune system, long-term use of birth control pills, multiple sexual partners and early onset of sexual activity.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer:
Symptoms of cervical cancer may include abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, pain during intercourse, and increased vaginal discharge. Advanced stages may present with weight loss, fatigue and leg swelling.
Who is susceptible to cervical cancer?
Women are at higher risk of developing cervical cancer, especially those with persistent HPV infection. Other risk factors include a family history of cervical cancer, smoking, long-term use of birth control pills, a weakened immune system, and engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors.
Take precautions for cervical cancer:
HPV Vaccination: Vaccination against high-risk HPV types is a primary preventive measure. HPV vaccination is an important preventive measure against cervical cancer and other HPV-related diseases, ideally recommended for both men and women before sexual activity begins. Administered in two or three doses, the vaccine targets high-risk HPV types, significantly reducing the risk of persistent infections that can lead to cervical cancer.
Recommended by organizations such as the CDC and WHO, routine vaccination for adolescents and catch-up vaccination for persons 26 years of age contribute to community immunity and overall public health. Despite proven efficacy, addressing vaccine hesitancy and improving access are essential to maximize the impact of HPV vaccination in preventing various HPV-related cancers and diseases.
, Regular screening: A routine Pap smear or HPV test can detect abnormal changes in the cervix early, allowing for timely intervention and prevention.
, Safe sex practices: Safe sex practices, including consistent and correct contraceptive use, can reduce the risk of HPV infection.
Treatment involves: Treatment options for cervical cancer depend on the stage of the disease and may include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Early-stage cervical cancer can be treated with surgery to remove cancerous tissue, while more advanced stages may require a combination of treatments.